Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Outdoors Burlap-Themed Bridal Shower with Chickens...

This past weekend was a busy but fun time.  My daughter and I hosted a bridal shower for one of our close friends who is getting married next month.  She and her husband-to-be love the outdoors and wanted a very simple and natural type setting for their wedding theme.  So we decided to host the shower outside, where our chickens, dogs and hummingbirds were also in!  Things don't get much more natural than chickens eating part of the shower decor... {smiles}

We went with a burlap-on-white theme, with very simple decorations.  I glued burlap around a quart Mason jar, tied some ribbon, and added a votive candle inside.

I printed off some of their engagement pictures that the bride shared with me, and I used clothespins to pin the pictures to the burlap table runners.

I set up the bridal table in the trees holding up my bird and hummingbird feeders.  The birds and chickens were very confused about it all day long.  They kept inviting themselves to the party early. Their feelings were quite hurt when they had to be told to wait... lol!

I made a burlap 12x12 frame for the bride to keep.  I used a wooden cut-out of the word "LOVE" and glued it onto the burlap, along with an 8x8 enlarged picture of them, a bow tied with twine, and some shabby roses.  I used more of her pictures clipped to twine to spread over the table, along with candles, a mirror and some cute Stampin Up boxes that I had made previously.

We set up a little game table where guests could guess how many kisses were in the jar, share special date night ideas, and we also played the clothespin game with the guests.  This was a great way for the guests to all mingle and get to know each other.  (The clothespin game is played as follows: everyone gets 3 clips to begin with, and then whoever crosses their arms or legs loses a pin to the person who catches it.  The person at the end of the shower with the most clothespins wins).

Lots of beautiful gifts for the sweet bride-to-be!

My daughter and I fixed most of the food for the shower.  We had a very simple menu: Italian Chicken Pasta Salad, Tuna Cheese Dip, Chicken Salad sandwiches, Spicy Pretzels, Tortilla Roll-Ups, and Orange Sherbet punch along with vegetable and fruit trays brought by the bride's sister.

Our very simple but lovely arrangement for the shower.  We just used things we already had to decorate with, so it was very inexpensive and fun to do.

I made the bride-to-be a sash to wear out of burlap.  She is wearing it here.  For the dessert, I made a homemade Huckleberry cheesecake (using the huckleberries we picked a couple of weeks ago).

It was such a hot day, the whipping cream I used to decorate the cake with melted before I could get a decent picture... but the huckleberry cheesecake was such a hit.  I think we all wanted to lick our plates... lol!

My intentions were to have the bride and the guests take pictures with my old window frame, but time got away from us, and that never happened...

All the "Girly's" (our 7 Rhode Island Red pullets) showed up for the shower.  The rest of the hens went to bed early, but not these girls! They roamed around all the tables, checking for scraps, and when no scraps were available, they munched on flowers that I had brought from my garden... over the course of a couple of hours... the flowers disappeared, and my plants were almost reduced to the nubs!

As the sun began to set, the twinkle of the white lights softened the evening light, casting a soft glow over the joy of the evening.

Annie kept a close eye on the food as well... she never begged for food, but because she is such a pretty and sweet girl, you can be sure she got her share :)

We had a tremendous turnout from these unwanted guests... who unfortunately met their demise as well...

I didn't have to worry about any leftovers that might have spilled... I had quite the cleanup crew who worked feverishly, and nonstop to make sure that wasn't an issue!

As the evening shadows drew close, the gentle white lights created an ambient scene from which laughter, joy and happiness spilled forth and the lovely ladies who came all enjoyed an evening full of fun, games, and joy.

The shower was a delightful time, and the games we played were quite hilarious.  We played:

  1. How well do you know the bride (a list of questions about the bride, who also filled out the questionnaire, and then read out her answers and the one with the most right won). 
  2. I read a Bridal poem.  This is a cutesy poem where the listener adds and takes away points as the list is read (if you have on buttons, add 2 points for every button, etc.) Winner has the most points. 
  3. How many kisses in the jar (no joke... the bride-to-be won, which was hilarious, and her prize was the jar of kisses of course, which she generously shared with all of us). 
  4. We created a silly story of how they met... starting with a basic opening line, then each person adding a line, and then folding the paper, so the next person couldn't see, and having each person add a line to the story.  It got pretty ridiculous and hilarious! 
  5. The clothespin game (described above).  
It was a wonderful evening, and after gifts were opened, and lots of laughs shared, the darkness began to fall, and the cool air settled in.  The dear ladies helped us clean up, and everyone that came shared how they had a delightful time.  We were thankful to have been able to share in this special time for our sweet friend.  :) 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Berries... Berries... and more Berries!

It is full-swing berry season around here, and I'm beginning to wonder if my fingers will be permanently berry-stained, and that is no joke!  I am so thankful that we live in a place where fresh berries are abounding in abundance.

Around the middle of June, strawberries begin to pop their happy faces up everywhere.  I planted 90 strawberry plants earlier this year, but knew that I would get a small crop this year as they don't have the root system to support a large crop.  Because our family loves strawberries ~ strawberry jam in particular ~ my daughter and I went to a local strawberry farm and picked strawberries for several hours.  We ended up with just over 25 pounds of strawberries!  I made 6 batches of strawberry jam... that is 42 bottles of jam to be exact, and I cannot even begin to tell you the satisfaction that comes with making this jam as it is a treat our family enjoys with homemade bread or biscuits.

Just seeing all those lovely jars lined up on the cabinet brought a smile to my face!

These are the strawberry plants that I had planted earlier this year.  Some of the plants produce strawberries all summer, and some produce strawberries only in June.  Because this is their first year, the crop will be small until their roots have a chance to grow.  I have been getting enough berries from these plants to use in my smoothies every morning, and for happy little treats as I water the garden, and that is pretty awesome.

We found wild strawberries growing in abundance up on the mountain, but since we had picked our fill of huckleberries for the day, we just enjoyed the taste of a few... and they were sweeter than honey!

Huckleberries... the berry of the mountains.  These berries have never been able to be commercially produced and for that reason, they remain a "delicacy" of sorts up here in the mountains.  Because they are a favorite of bears too, there is a bit of dangerous excitement that comes with picking huckleberries. Not to mention the fact that these very tasty berries have to each be picked individually, they don't generally grow in clusters.  This means that you have to work hard for every.single.berry that you pick!

The best part of huckleberry picking is the views that we enjoy whilst picking.   High up in the mountains, where the only noises you hear are the sounds of the chipmunk sassing, or the birds gentle calls, and the soft breezes of the wind as it passes through the trees, it is a real treat... not to mention the occasional treat of a berry oozing its goodness in your mouth as you pick!  

Huckleberries, precious purple gold!  If you wanted to make some extra cash, restaurants in the area pay anywhere from $30.00 to $50.00 a gallon for these huckleberries.  It took my daughter and I three hours, plus my son helping for one hour to pick a gallon and a half.  I would far rather have the berries at this point... it is a lot of hard work... and having our own huckleberry cobbler, muffins, pancakes is far more worthwhile than the extra $$.

However, if I was so inclined, and had the time, it would be a lovely pass-time to spend the day huckleberry picking, and make a few extra dollars at it!

My dear neighbor A. has a young pie cherry tree that had these beautiful cherries that were fully ripened.  She told me she had no intention of doing anything with the cherries, and asked me if I wanted them?  Really?  Oh, I was quite happy to go over and picked the cherries.  The cherries were just perfectly ripe, and I couldn't wait to can them up!

Back home, the next job was the pits!

After the cherries were pitted and washed...

I canned them up in a sugar syrup and hot water processed them.

I also had some cherries that I had picked during the same strawberry picking excursion earlier in the week, and so I went ahead and canned up all the cherries.  I made a cherry cobbler with the cherries that was absolutely delightful... oh my goodness!  I could eat these cherries all day long, they are so good! I did forget to take a picture of the cobbler, mostly because it got devoured almost as soon as it came out of the oven! However, the next one I make, I'll try to remember to get a picture, lol!

Blueberries!  Ah yes... the blueberries are in season here as well.  So much berry picking happening right now... can you see why my fingers feel like they are permanently stained bluish red, lol!

I think I might just turn into a berry!  The lovely berry farm close by to us is a U-pick and are open from daylight to dusk.  Blueberries there are huge, juicy and sweet.  A delight to pick!  I picked about 10 pounds of blueberries, and had to stop because time ran out.  However, I plan to go back and pick more soon.

Made a big batch of blueberry muffins with the blueberries... oh such yumminess!

We are making the most of the berry season that is going strong here right now. I hope to be back out in the berry field later this week to pick at least another 20 pounds of blueberries.  I will freeze the blueberries to use in smoothies, pies, cakes, cobblers, and whatever else suits my fancy... lol! The huckleberries have likewise been cleaned and frozen, and can be used in any recipe you use for blueberries.  I also plan to make huckleberry ice cream though... a special request by my family.  I am currently gathering raspberries out of my garden, but I keep forgetting to take a picture of them.  I will be freezing them as well.  Wild raspberries, or thimbleberries are ready right now too, and I would love to pick some of them, hopefully later this week.

So we are living in a "berry sweet" world right now... enjoying all the sweetness the season has to offer, along with all the busyness!

Speaking of busyness... the "busyness" of life never ends.  This weekend I am hosting a bridal shower for a dear friend who is getting married in August.   Dear daughter is in charge of the games, and I of the food and decor.  We are quite excited as we plan the event.  It is always wonderful to find a couple who love the Lord so much and who are beginning their new life together.  The bridal shower will wrap up another busy week, and then the last week of July will be here!!  It is hard to look at the calendar and see that it is the end of July, and we haven't even been swimming once yet this summer!!  I think that needs to change... and so hopefully we will find time soon to go down to the lake for a swim.

The lazy days of summer... where did that expression come from? In my world... it's the crazy days of summer, lol!  How about you? Are you having a lazy or a crazy summer?

Friday, July 15, 2016

BUMBLEFOOT.... More Chicken Drama

I was just feeling like life was settling down to "normal" (whatever that is!) after Rudy's passing a week ago.  The chicken coop has been strangely silent without Rudy's noise and presence, and it has taken us all awhile to get used to it.  The girls have been staying very close to the coop and not going on "excursions" through the woods like they did with Rudy.  Oftentimes the whole group of them would disappear into the woods with Rudy's ever vigilant eye watching over them, and then happily return, their crops full of yummy woodland treats.  But now, they are not venturing far away from the coop at all, always within eyesight distance.

And so, as I was leaving the coop this past Sunday, I was just thinking, well I guess this is the "new normal" around here, quiet happy pecking hens, soft clucks, and no noisy loud sounds from a handsome rascal, when I heard something unusual behind me.  I turned to see what it was, and there was my poor Eleanor behind me, trying to keep up with me, and she couldn't because she was hobbling.  My heart sunk. I could see what was causing her problem.

BUMBLEFOOT... a infection that chickens get in their feet that could have a variety of causes but usually begins with a cut or scrape on their foot that subsequently gets infected.  The infection grows and hardens into a hard kernel inside the soft tissue mass.  Once the bumblefoot gets to the point where the chicken is hobbling and can't walk, surgery is generally the only alternative.

With a sick feeling in my heart, I knew that an unpleasant task lay before me. I had planned to go berry picking today.. well, that wasn't happening now!   I needed to get the hard kernel out of her foot in order for her to heal.  I did a lot of reading and research on the issue before getting started.  I read that several people had lost their chickens to anesthesia when taking them to the vet to have this done, and also that there really wasn't anything to give the chicken for the pain during the procedure because chickens can't have anything with a "*caine" in it, because it will cause them to stop breathing.  Here is a very good article on bumblefoot for more information on bumblefoot in chickens by a trusted chicken expert.  

If you're a bit squeamish, just scroll down past the next few pictures, as they are not the most pleasant!

My daughter and I worked together to perform the surgery, turning our bathroom into a mini-surgical suite.  First we soaked her feet in warm Epsom salt water to soften the abscess.  Then we wrapped Eleanor in a towel and laid her on her back.  We had sterilized the knives and tweezers we were going to use, wore gloves and... then we prayed! I knew without the Lord's help I would not be able to stomach such a procedure, and I prayed as I went.  It was a very tough thing to do.  In fact, my daughter had to stop and go rest for a bit, because it was so intense.  Eleanor was obviously in pain although she only squawked once, bless her heart!  It is true that chickens are very stoic, and handle pain extremely well.  This procedure was extremely taxing for all of us.  I know the Lord helped me through it, because normally I don't do well when seeing blood. However, I knew it had to be done, and I just had to get through it.

After digging for what seemed like forever, I finally located the a small kernel of hard tissue that usually is present in bumblefoot.  You can see it lying on the towel above.

If you are squeamish, cover your eyes for the next picture, it is not pleasant!

Finishing up after the kernel had been removed, it was time to bandage and dress the wound.

We applied mupirocin (an antibiotic cream that we had on hand) to the wound with some sterile gauze. We then wrapped the foot with latex-free self-cling wrap and then applied duct tape over all to hold the bandages in place.

Here she is with the foot all bandaged up.

I put her in a cage in the garden for the first 12 hours or so, so that I could keep an eye on her.

She was not too happy with the bandage on her foot and tried to peck it off.

Finally she realized she could walk with the bandage on, and we fed her some special treats from the garden... lettuce, peas and strawberries.  That made her very happy!

The next morning, I opened the bandage and the wound seemed to be healing up very well, and looked much better, and less red.  Today is day 5 after the surgery, and each day I notice that the swelling is decreasing and the color of her foot has returned to normal with no redness.  It appears that she is well on the way to healing.  It will take some time for the wound to completely dry up and go away, and I will leave the dressing on for another few days just to make sure healing continues.

And while we are sad that Mr. Rudy is no longer with us, his son Pepper is starting to make it quite known that he is a rooster.  To my dismay, it appears that "Sally" our last little chick that hatched out, is most likely a rooster as well.  Our second chick that we hatched we named Buttercup, who I was certain initially was a rooster.  However... now I am not so certain as Buttercup has not begun to act like a rooster, and continues to be very timid, shy, and has shown no signs of aggressive behavior.

Goldie adopted Salt & Pepper, along with her own chick that she hatched out... Sally.  However, Sally and Pepper have been playing games with each other that no doubt soon will get nasty.  I see them feathering up and staring each other down, and coming towards each other with their heads down, and then they go right back to eating together.  So... no doubt our chicken drama will be continuing, as I will soon have to make a decision on which rooster to keep.  I am continuing to watch them, and work with them.  Each day I am taking Sally and Pepper and just holding them and walking around with them to show them that I am boss.  Rooster taming... I hope it can be done!

Meanwhile, Eleanor has been getting around pretty good around the yard and keeping up with the other hens. For the first day or two, she stayed close to the coop, but the last few days she has been making the rounds with the rest of the girls.  I'm hoping that the chicken drama has quieted down for a while!

And as a side note... my heart is heavy with all the terrible tragedy that took place in France and the continuing violence that seems to be escalating in the world we live in.  Here on my little piece of heaven this side of earth, I find it comforting to go outside and be with my animals and in my garden, and just pray and ask the Lord to be with the hearts that are grieving.  There are no easy answers to these things... but there is hope in Christ, and that is where I turn in the midst of the sorrow in my heart with these kinds of tragedies.

"On Christ the solid rock I stand.. all other ground is sinking sand."

I'm thankful that in the midst of the hurting world we live in... our hope in Christ is where we can find solid footing and hope to keep us through the darkness around us.

I've also been quite busy as berry season is in full swing around here!  I hope to post soon about some of the fun berry experiences we've had.  :)

Monday, July 11, 2016

21 Blessed Years

Today my husband and I celebrate 21 years of life together.   I have officially now spent over half of my life with this amazing man!

To celebrate together, we chose to do something simple - can you guess what it was?

If you guessed anything with "mountains"... you are correct!

Since both of us love these mountains so much... we escaped for the day and explored the back roads of the mountain together.

It didn't cost us a penny... at least not more than the little bit of fuel we used... and being frugal is something we both enjoy doing!  We ate a large breakfast before we left and enjoyed some light snacks during the day, and we were back in time to enjoy dinner with our kids.

We found an old mountain road that winded for many miles up the side of the mountain with lots of little logging roads branching off, and we drove down quite a few of those roads too.

The expansive vistas that were afforded to us were magnificent... a true feast for the eyes, heart and soul!

We felt as though we were on vacation again, but in reality, we could see from this vista almost into our own backyard!

The wildflowers were out in an abundant display of glory, waving their pretty heads in the gentle breezes.

As I watched the wildflowers swaying to their own secret windswept song, they made me think of this Psalm:

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. 
For he knoweth our frame: he remembereth that we are dust.  
As for man, his days are as grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.  
For the wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.  
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him 
and his righteousness unto the children's children 
to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.  ... 
Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion, 
Bless the Lord, O my soul.  
Psalms 103:13-18, 22

Bless the Lord O My Soul: and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name. Psalms 103:1

Oh the fun we had, just enjoying being together... 21 wonderful years the Lord has blessed us with, and the years keep getting better and better.   We have learned to let go of so many things, and hold onto things that are really important.  Our family, sweet times spent together, special memories... these are the things that make up the fabric of our lives, and the Lord is the glue in the midst of it all, the binding together of our lives and our love.

What joy it is to know that we don't have to live life on the "fast track" to enjoy and share our time together.  We could have taken some fancy vacation, went on a cruise or flown to some exotic place... but none of those things appeal to us.  Simple, sweet, and lots of love mixed in with the joy of the Lord, and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery you could ask for... today we had it all.... right in our own backyard :)

The berries were out in abundance!  Wild strawberries were growing everywhere!  We sat down in the middle of the patch and just munched away {smiles}

More wildflowers... their swaying songs were silent, but I thought I could hear their melody in my heart... bless the Lord... Bless the Lord... BLESS the Lord... BLESS THE LORD!

Pink, yellow, blue, red... whatever your fancy... there was an abundance of color everywhere!

And oh!  The huckleberries!  We found them in abundance too!  Tangy sweet berries, firmer than blueberries, oh what delight - we found a patch that stretched as far as the eyes could see!  We were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the huckleberry patches we found.  Our teeth and fingers were stained, yes even our clothes, lol... as we sat down and picked berries to our heart's content.

We happened to have a container to put the berries in, and together we were able to pick about a gallon of these amazing berries!

While we were up there on the mountain, it seemed as if all the troubles in the world around us were far far far away... we didn't want to leave!

Of course, the reality is... you can't stay forever on the mountains... the valley does await.

But the memories we had of our day spent together will forever be cherished as gloriously special... and they didn't cost us a dime :)

Happy Anniversary my beloved... I love you to the moon mountains and back!